Public Information Office
Their names don’t always make the 6 o’clock news, even when the suspects they round up do, but a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office deputy and investigator found themselves in the spotlight Wednesday for their hard work and selfless sense of duty. The pair was among three other employees honored for their performance by Sheriff Ben Johnson during an Employees of the 1st Quarter ceremony at the Deputy Stephen Saboda Center in Daytona Beach. Awards were presented to a patrol deputy, an investigator, an intelligence unit clerk, a telecommunicator, and a Citizen Observer Program volunteer.
A shocking road rage shooting on I-4 left a NASCAR fan dead February 18 as he was on his way home from a race. The shooting suspects were on the loose and presumed armed and dangerous. Deputy Austin Hairston spotted the suspects’ vehicle heading westbound on the Interstate and he immediately started coordinating the support of other deputies, a K-9 unit and Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Hairston’s confidence and calm demeanor helped his fellow deputies stay focused despite fears of what could happen should the suspects violently resist capture. Once all backups were in place, the suspect vehicle was pulled over and Hairston ordered each person out of the vehicle one by one. All four were safely secured.
Hairston’s fellow deputy, Trisha Gutterson, thanked Hairston for his reassuring leadership of that night in a letter recommending him for Deputy of the Quarter. “I hope that other deputies in this agency get to work with Deputy Hairston and realize what a huge asset he is to this department,” she wrote.
Crimes of a sexual nature against children grab the public’s attention any time they come to light. Andrew “Andy” Cotton has the unsavory task of investigating such activities in his role of Internet Crimes Against Children investigator. One recent case started with a tip from New York that someone in Volusia County might be involved in posting child pornography on the Internet. Cotton’s detailed investigation led to a suspect in Deltona. Cotton obtained arrest warrants for 10 counts of sexual performance by a child against the suspect, who was a licensed foster parent and had 14 children in his home over the course of a year. Another case involved a man arrested in Jacksonville who mentioned he had lived in DeLand. Cotton seized a computer from the home, on which 900 illegal images were later found. His work resulted in 44 counts of possession of sexual performance by a child.
Cotton also puts his two decades of law enforcement experience to use outside of his daily job. He readily assists with anything from search warrants to Bike Week intelligence gathering.
Sheriff Johnson presented Cotton his plaque and said to the audience, “When they get these awards, they have earned it.”
Lynea Baker was honored as employee of the quarter for her work as Intelligence Clerk. Baker sorts through a slew of information every day to create a criminal activity brief that is sent to several agencies within the Central Florida region. Additionally, she has volunteered for additional responsibilities to include managing the Intelligence Unit website, documenting criminal intelligence and doing research for investigators in departments like Homeland Security, Auto Theft and Crime Stoppers. Baker is credited with improving the Investigative Support Group through her hard work and dedication.
“You’re doing a great job, and we appreciate it,” said Sheriff Johnson.
A challenging 911 call handled by Dwayne Kempf in January earned him telecommunicator of the quarter honors. A man had called in from his cell phone, but he was disoriented and at times incoherent, making it difficult to get him the help he needed. The victim had fallen into a storm drain and was injured. Despite the frustration of not being able to determine where the victim was, Kempf went above and beyond to help. Eventually, another citizen discovered the man and was able to holler down into the storm drain a description of the location that Kempf could use. Kempf’s perseverance, despite so many obstacles, helped rescuers find the victim.
“The busier it gets, the better they get,” said Sheriff Johnson about the telecommunicators. “I’ve often said that being a telecommunicator is the toughest job in law enforcement.”
Volunteer of the quarter John Parulo is a C.O.P. with a lot of admirers. His nomination packet boasted six endorsements from fellow C.O.P. volunteers who praised him for his devotion and poise. Parulo signs up for all work details offered, from parades to emergency situations. He’s credited with knowing how to take control of any situation that might occur, inspiring confidence in his co-workers. Parulo has been a volunteer for 13 years and has logged 7,500 volunteer hours. Everyone who works with him knows that he will respond to any call for help at any time.
“We appreciate everything the C.O.P.s and all our volunteers do,” said Sheriff Johnson. “We couldn’t do it without you.”
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151